RMOW Policy and Program Development
Laughter rings through the cavernous ballroom at the Telus Whistler Conference Centre as my family enters the front doors, swaddled in snowpants and snowflakes. To the left, a gregarious group hammers away at an air hockey game; ahead we witness a small child taking a huge swing on a mini golf course and down the hall…
“Huge bouncy castle dad!” yells our two-year-old boy Chance, eyes lit up and virtually drooling as he points to the object of every two-year-old’s desire: a blue and pink Barbie bouncy castle with a slide on one side and a basketball hoop too.
And they’re off. Four-year-old Winter, heads straight for the big slide, Chance begins to bounce, and neither stops for two hours save for short breaks to wipe their noses with tissue from the main private sponsor, Purex. The 12 days of Christmas this year brought a free family gift to Whistler locals and visitors alike. From Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, with some time off for Christmas and First Night, kids bounced, golfed and played as part of the free Whistler Holiday Experience event, created through a partnership between Tourism Whistler, Watermark Communications and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
A quick browse of the guest book at the front door shows guests from Mexico, Germany, the UK and many from Whistler. Staff working the bouncy room report an average of about 400 users a day. Guests enjoyed the experience for a couple hours after the mountain lifts closed or before dinner. Some local parents and nannies were bringing lunch and staying for most of the day.
With a cost of around $50,000 to produce, this free event was far from free. According to Bob Andrea, RMOW Manager of Village Animation, this program was designed to add value to the family experience at the resort, enhancing opportunities for families to find and have safe, indoor fun together over the busy holiday period. The municipality applied for and received a Tourism Enhancement Grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities to cover about half the costs, while the rest came from hotel tax funds, a tissue sponsor and in-kind donations — Tourism Whistler donated the space and Watermark helped with production and promotion of the event.
Parents chasing children around the bouncy room told me they thought it was a very valuable addition to the family Christmas experience in Whistler. Many said they were happy it was free. That said, some indicated they would love to have the offering available year round on weekends and would not mind paying a reasonable fee to take part in the fun.
Through Whistler2020, our community has created and shared core priorities. The Whistler Holiday Experience was a shining on the ground success, supporting four of our five priorities — Enriching Community Life, Enhancing the Resort Experience, Ensuring Economic Viability and Partnering for Success. As well, a number of Whistler2020 Community Task Forces — Recreation and Leisure and Visitor Experience in particular — have created actions designed to create affordable family friendly indoor village experiences that enhance and support Whistler’s copious outdoor recreation offerings.
What the future holds for free frolicking is hard to say. All partners involved in the Whistler Holiday Experience expect it to be back next Christmas. Some of the folks from around the globe who signed the guest book will probably be back as well, bouncing our resort community one small step closer to our long-term vision.
To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward Whistler2020, to tell us how you’re contributing, or to find out how we’re performing visit www.whistler2020.ca .